IG2023: ladies and gentlemen, the revolution has been served


Speakers at the congress: Leonor Espinosa and Fatmata Binta, pioneers of world cuisines

The Colombian chef and the Sierra Leonean of Fulani ethnicity, awaited speakers at Identità Milano 2023, share an enormous passion for their gastronomic traditions and the unwavering support of the communities that guard them

Leonor Espinosa and Fatmata Binta, both special gu

Leonor Espinosa and Fatmata Binta, both special guest speakers in the Auditorium at Identità Milano 2023: the Colombian chef will give a talk with her daughter Laura Hernandez on Sunday 29th January at 3.40 p.m.; the Sierra Leonean chef on Saturday 28th at 4.20 p.m.

In the 18th edition of Identità Milano (28/30 January 2023) world cuisines and the cooks and chefs representing traditions on the rise in global consideration will be back in the limelight. There are many similarities between Colombian Leonor Espinosa and Sierra Leonean Fatmata Binta: both support the work of barely-visible if not completely ignored communities (Colombian indigenous communities the former, nomadic Fulani communities in West Africa the latter); both work in politically unstable and male-centric countries; both carry out archaeologically relevant work on the roots of their respective traditions, striving hard to bring them up to date. And both have won the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize (in 2017 the former, in 2022 the latter). Let's read their biographies and stories

Leo Restaurant, Bogotá, Colombia
Sala Auditorium, Sunday 19th January, 3.40 pm

Born in Cartago, in the Cauca Valley, in 1963, Leonor Espinosa's vocation came rather late in life: before turning her hand to cooking, she studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Cartagena de Indias - the pearl of Colombia's Caribbean coastline, a country that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Pacific, south of the Panama Strait - and economics at the Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar. A curious and multifaceted profile, developed before she became interested in catering, in 1998, at the age of 25.
A quarter of a century later, Leo restaurant in Bogotá is on the list of the world's most acclaimed restaurants: 48th in the global 50 Best and 13th in the continental Latin America list. For technical skills, certainly – Espinosa was also voted Best Female Chef 2022 by the same institution – but above all for her willingness to showcasing like no one else the cyclobiome of Colombia. This country boasts one of the densest animal and plant biodiversities in the world, a heritage of which we still know very little because, in fact, the equatorial country only emerged from a dark multi-decade civil war in 2016.

Leo is the restaurant that best expresses mestizaje, the melting pot of a country that overlaps Amazonian, Andean, Caribbean, Pacific, Arab, African, Spanish and indigenous influences. Above all, Leo and her daughter Laura, in charge of the newly-opened La Sala de Laura, on the floor above the more celebrated restaurant, turn the spotlight on all those actors who belong to small minorities, long relegated to silence. Invisible African and indigenous communities, plagued by problems of social violence and deprived of their basic resources. Four hundred and fifty thousand people belonging to 81 ethnic groups, speaking 64 different languages. An anthropological and cultural heritage kept under wraps until just three decades ago.

“Cooking is an important social vessel,” Leonor explains whenever she can, “because it can help solve a country's problems. By supporting them and the plant and animal species they care for, we can protect precious communities, promote the country's food security, and write our complex culinary identity”. A mission that earned her the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize in 2017. She also pursues these themes every single day as president of Funleo a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the social welfare of ethnic and rural communities. Espinosa is also the author of two important books: 'Leo el Sabor' and 'Lo que cuenta el caldero'.

The cuisine of restaurant Leo in Bogotá
Cooking as redemption for invisible communities: the example of Leonor and Laura in Bogotá

Leonor Espinosa and daughter Laura Hernandez, at the helm of restaurants Leo, La Sala de Laura and Mi Casa en tu Casa in Bogotá

Leonor Espinosa and daughter Laura Hernandez, at the helm of restaurants Leo, La Sala de Laura and Mi Casa en tu Casa in Bogotá

Fatmata Binta

Fatmata Binta

Fulani Kitchen Foundation, Accra, Ghana
Sala Auditorium, Saturday 28th January, 4.20 pm

Few cooks in the world have been so talked about recently as Fatmata Binta, universally known as Chef Binta - which is also the name of her Instagram account where she is very active. Born in Freetown, the battered capital of Sierra Leone, of Guinean descent, Binta now lives in Accra, the capital of Ghana, three states further east in West Africa.

But it is the movement that most defines this woman and the people to whom she belongs and whom she strongly supports every day: the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group made up of millions of people who move across the spectrum between Morocco and Cameroon. Binta is a modern-day nomadic chef, a cook who has traversed and picked up techniques, ingredients and ways of life from all the places she has passed through. An author and advocate of her roots, she has a background of classical cuisine. This combination allows her to create dishes that are modern in concept, yet simple and authentic.

Ancient grains, indigenous spices, but also many foodstuffs long denied or unavailable to ordinary people due to the conflicts of regions ravaged by war and famine. “Make something out of nothing” was her mantra for a long time: to devise meals from scratch for the crowded Fulani polygamous families, perhaps by continually cleaning rice of cockroaches and mixing it with bulgur to ensure sufficient quantities for everyone. And fonio, a super grain with important properties and enormous potential, about which she will talk at Identità Milano. The real fetish ingredient.
Food for sustenance is the key on which Chef Binta has grafted a constant and tireless commitment to carry out unique projects: the creation of Dine on a Mat, a nomadic restaurant that has already spread knowledge of ancestral techniques to three continents, and the Fulani Kitchen Foundation, a foundation for women and girls from all the regions crossed by the Fulani, to meet social and educational needs and transform ingredients (such as fonio itself) into sources of income, economic independence, food and job security for these rural communities. Commitments that have already earned her an important recognition: the Basque Culinary World Prize 2022.

Read more:
Being Fulani is my journey by Sorrel Moseley-Williams, World of Topia


Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

IG2023: ladies and gentlemen, the revolution has been served

Gabriele Zanatta


Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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